WELLSBORO — Utility bills and needed repairs and upgrades are prompting the borough council here to ask what to do with the borough’s aging fire hall.
During the March 13 work session, borough manager Lou Rachiele assembled costs for utilities and projected repairs needed at the building. The Wellsboro Volunteer Fire Department uses roughly two-thirds of the building with the Wellsboro Police Department housed in the remaining third.
Gas, electric, water and sewer bills cost nearly $26,000 annually. In addition, the borough provides $70,000 yearly per the fire and rescue protection agreement, collects another $12,000 in Local Service Tax, and pays $17,500 in worker’s comp. Total expenses for the borough are $125,300, an average of $10,442 per month.
The building, completed in 1972, is in need of repairs including:
• Heating upgrade with an estimated cost in 2019 of $150,000-$200,000
• Repair and improve drainage in the garage, estimated cost $50,000-$75,000
• Generator, estimated cost $2,500
• Replace ceiling tile in the police department, estimated cost $1,500
• Replace glass garage doors with insulated doors, no cost provided
• Upgrade and replace air conditioning, estimated cost $75,000-$100,000
The borough, Rachiele said, has to decide which option to take, including donating the building to the fire department with a 99-year lease for the police department for $1. If the council decides to take that route, the agreement could include stipulations to allow the police to move out at any time, prohibiting commercial use of the building and, should the fire department no longer want it, giving the borough first right of refusal.
Another option would be to negotiate an agreement with the fire department with the fire department being responsible for two-thirds of the utilities and half of the building upkeep and repairs.
Rachiele said he did speak with department Fire Chief Lonnie Campbell, who told him the department is not interested in owning the building.
Councilman Mike Wood said he opposes giving the building away, noting that borough residents voted to approve a $300,000 expense to build the original structure in 1966.
Other council members were willing to look at the options. As a non-profit, the fire department, they said, may be able to secure grants for repairs and upkeep more easily than the borough.
No decision was made Monday, other than council directing Rachiele to set up a meeting with the fire department’s board and chief to discuss the concern.